Writing Unforgettable Characters: Crafting a Character Profile | Barbara Vance | Skillshare

Writing Unforgettable Characters: Crafting a Character Profile

Barbara Vance, Author, Illustrator

Writing Unforgettable Characters: Crafting a Character Profile

Barbara Vance, Author, Illustrator

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11 Lessons (1h 9m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. The Complexity of Character Development

    • 3. Types of Characteristics

    • 4. Creating Traits With Purpose: Investigating Characteristics

    • 5. Internal and External Characteristics

    • 6. How Characteristics Relate to Plot - Three Levels

    • 7. Creating Plot-Driven Characteristis

    • 8. Character Profile Project: Part One

    • 9. Crafting Strong Character Relationships

    • 10. Creating Unique and Memorable Traits

    • 11. Project Part Two and Final Thoughts

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About This Class


Course Overview:

The purpose of this course is to help you develop a sufficiently deep three dimensional unique character who can carry your plot, and whom readers will not only connect with deeply, but will remember.

In this installment of Writing Unforgettable Characters, you will learn to:

  1. Understand the relationships between character and narrative
  2. Understand the nuances of character development
  3. Determine the best character traits for your plot
  4. Consider character development in relation to other characters

Very often when writers begin developing characters for a story, they think assign traits without considering which ones are most appropriate for the story itself. The result is that readers cannot fully connect to the character because that character does not seem to be fully integrated into the plot or fully connected to other characters in the story.

Among the things will will look at are:

  • The complexities of character development
  • How to maximize each character trait so that it drives the narrative as well as fleshes out not only the main character, but supporting characters as well
  • Types of characteristics and how to have a balance of these
  • The internal and external drivers of every characteristic
  • How to identify truly unique character traits that readers will connect with and remember

This course will be helpful to beginning writers as well as those who already have experience. While detail-oriented, sections of this course are surveys that subsequent “Writing Unforgettable Characters” courses will address in more detail.

By the end of the class you will have a better idea of how characters relate to plot and to one another and how to choose the best characteristics for individual characters.

The class assignment is a helpful Character Profile in which you will brainstorm and codify traits for any and all of the characters in your story. This includes answering questions about your character, getting to know who your character is, and then extrapolating on the significance of these characteristics to the plot so that you are able to write them into the narrative, making plot and character inextricably linked.

Meet Your Teacher

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Barbara Vance

Author, Illustrator



Barbara Vance is an author, illustrator and educator. She has a PhD in Narrative and Media, has taught storytelling and media production at several universities, and has spoken internationally on the power of storytelling and poetry. Barbara’s YouTube channel focuses on illustration and creative writing.

Her poetry collection, Suzie Bitner Was Afraid of the Drain, which she wrote and illustrated, is a Moonbeam Children’s Book winner, an Indie Book Award winner, and was twice a finalist for the Bluebonnet Award. Its poems are frequently used in school curricula around the world.

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1. Introduction: Hi, everyone. Welcome to this course on creating unforgettable characters. My name is Barbara Vance, and I am an author, illustrator and educator, and I've had the good fortune to teach writing, creative writing, character development, plot development, narrative storytelling. Four many, many years To a lot of fantastic artists, this course is going to be the first in a series on writing an unforgettable character, and this one were basically going to look at How do we set up what characteristics are character should have. The purpose of this course is to really learn to craft three dimensional characters that are unique that are memorable and that drives the plot forward. What often proves a stumbling block to riders is that they don't take the initial time to develop their characters before they begin their story, which means that your character never never gets ingrained in the plot. The character rather sits on the surface of it, in which case you could sort of pull that character out, put a new one in and it wouldn't change things very much. You don't want that kind of character, so we need to start now with a character profile with character development to say Not only what characteristics do I want my character to have, but how do I choose the characteristics and use the characteristics that are going to basically be inextricably linked to the plot? Do you can't separate those two? That's what's going to make a character memorable, not just assigning a unique character trait. It's It's the weaving of those two things as well as how Doe I make my protagonist. How do I make him play off of the antagonised playoff of the supporting characters, anyway, that I develop all of these characters at the same time and that I'm able to send a certain message with my story? So we're going to be looking at character driven plots. We're going to be looking at characters, character webbing. How do we relate those characters to one another? And then how do we look at the the actual individual characteristics and maximize them? Because loads of times you might say, I have a characteristic. My my protagonist loves to read, and you don't actually maximize that characteristic in your story, and so we want to make sure that you're getting the most out of everything that you write because the goal of the courses for you to really get a handle on who your character is and who your characters are, that the class assignment is a character profile, and there's a document for you to download, which I recommend that you do that you have with you throughout the course. You will also note that I recommend that you complete half of it in the middle of the course and then half of it at the end. Doing this and working on that character profile as you proceed through will allow you to maximize maximize the course. So I do recommend that modus operandi as we proceed. The second thing that I recommend that you download for the course and carry with you through our these handy dandy class notes that I made and what this is, is that it sort of gives you some bullet points for each of the video lessons. So some main takeaways from the videos for you I like for you to have this in front of you because ideally you will be making notes and brainstorming things and just having those those main bullet points will help reinforce what you're learning as well as allow you to make annotations and make notes. You really will learn so much more, and you will retain things more. If you have these class notes in front of you. As you watch the course videos, please do down, though those as well. If you do find yourself enjoying this course, I hope you'll follow me on some of my other social media platforms. I'm on YouTube, instagram Twitter and I have a website. All of that information is in the footer off the documents that I recommend you download for the scores. Having said all of that, I am so excited to get into this and to see what you create. So let's get started learning about character design. 2. The Complexity of Character Development: I want to begin with us addressing a little bit about the complexities of character development, as well as just establishing some overarching, um, ideas that you can carry through the course itself. Everything that you will hear in this class is a recommendation. There are so many ideas, there are so many opinions, this course and I. I'm not interested in telling you that this is the way that it has to be done. But this is the only way that it is. These are not hard and fast rules. These are guidelines. This course is designed to give you a way multiple ways to look at character traits and to look at how you might develop your characters for your novel. Don't get stuck on them. Don't feel they're the only way. If you find other ways, that's wonderful. Go with that roll with it, and maybe some of these gems will help you along with that. The second thing that I would say is that you are going to know as the creator off your world of your novel of these people. It is normal and expected that you are to know far more about your characters than the readers ever, ever going to know. I say this because you are going to perhaps look at this and say, Well, I don't really need to know where my character went to university or to school, because that's what I'm not using, that I'm not using that in my story. Barb, right? Only that. But the truth is that knowing certain details like that, even if they never manifest themselves in your story in any sort of textual way or verbal way, they tell you something about the character and because you know the character that intimately, you are there more real to you and you're able to write them in a unique way. So when knowing your character really well is being able to say he's being able to watch the news and say, Well, I know what my character would say about that. I know what my character would do if this happened to them. That's how you want to feel about your character. So while you don't want to get in the just total weeds on it and paralyze yourself by saying, Oh my goodness, I don't know everything you should you should know more about character than anyone else, so these exercises are going to help you do that. To that end, one of the challenges that you have is a writer is that you not only have to figure out who this character is, you have to determine all right, I know this much about my character. What does my readers need to know? And that's that's part of the challenge of character. Development is not just developing character. It's developing character in the context of this story, I'm trying to tell. So you want to not only be able to discern characteristics you like, but the relevant characteristics for your plot, as well as the relevant characteristics for other characters in the story. So you are learning this multiple role. You have to ask yourself throughout this whole course, and indeed, throughout any character development you have when you're writing, not just to say, what characteristics do I like, but what are the ones that are Jermaine? You really want to avoid just character stuffing where it's just like let me throw as many traits as you and I can because that means you know my character better. That's not true. Think about life. Think about real life. You might know a lot about someone and not really actually know them at all. You could, you could get on Wikipedia and you could learn loads about a celebrity. But you don't really know that. Then you can have a friend who you've known for one month and you met in school, and you feel like you've known them for ever. And the reason that there was a difference is because knowing someone isn't just here is ours. Many little factoids as I can drop your way, it's that you be character itself. Irrelevant. The Germaine traits have appeared to you have been contextualized for you in a way that's meaningful to you. My third pieces, advised in character development in general before we really dive in, is that you want to make sure that you are respecting who your character is. What I mean by that is that you want to respect your character's unique perspective. Socioeconomic status, background, past age. This might seem obvious. You might be saying to yourself, Well, Barbara, that's in that kind of character development, ISS. But the truth is that very often we don't necessarily think in those terms, we think of more surface level traits like, Well, she doesn't get along with her father or she likes pizza or something like that. But we're not thinking realistically in terms of that character. I will give you an example. I frequently see it for people who want to write Children's literature, or they are writing a character in which the Children is the protagonist. You end up with a child who is just far away while he's beyond her years and it's not realistic. Or you wind up with a child who they don't respect. Actually, how bright Children are and their child character is a bit stupid. So you you don't want to do that. You need to respect the perspective of the world as a child. To that end, you want to say, OK, how is my character as a girl, nine years old, going to look at this situation? How is my character as a girl of nine years old, going to think about that dress? Someone who is 90 years old might think that that pink dress reminds her off marmalade in a bottle and jelly making. When she was 25 years old. The same pink dress for a Girl of Aid might remind herself off the lollipops she just ate because their backgrounds of different. So when you're sitting here developing what traits do I want? You really need to sit with the fundamentals of who your character is so that you do justice by the traits that you then choose. Throughout this course, we're going to be looking at examining character traits from a variety of different perspectives. Each of thes requires us to be very investigative about that character trade, and we're going to delve into what that means. By investigative, I mean del ing into the reason behind and the function of a characteristic. To that end, we are going to look at four different ways that you can examine character traits and think about them. I really encourage you to embrace all of these different facets of character development, and so to see which ones work for you before that we're going to be looking at are the internal and external manifestations of a characteristic and how those two things relate the types of characteristics a character may have, how character, how characters relate to and drive the plot and how specifically their characteristics do that. And, finally, how characters relate to and flesh out other characters in the narrative. In other words, how different characters play off of one another, and in doing so, you learn something about them. So that's dive in. And before we start looking at how how to investigate characteristics, let's take a moment and look at the variety of characteristics that a character could have . 3. Types of Characteristics: So here's what I really recommend. You have that character profile outline downloaded and in front of you. Now there are many ways you could categorise characteristics for an individual. I've chosen to categorize them a certain way. Here, there. There are so many ways to do it. This is a matter of organization. It's just a way to look at them. What I want to do is run down these and sort of identify what they each mean. This is going to help you sort of narrow down and fill in the blocks and the gaps in your own character profile. I recommend we go through this that you have your character profile work sheet in front of you, Doc Handy dandy worksheet don't notice. The first page is and is a table that you'll be filling out. But for now, what I'd like for you to do, skip on down to this sort of questions to get you started list. What I've done is I'm I've made some just brainstorming questions for each of the categories that I'm now going to go through. So following along with this is going to help you just sort of ingrained in yourself. What are the various character traits in the way we're going to categorise them in this course, and the 1st 1 that we have is appearance. So this is just pretty office. This is going to be anything that's a physical trait, whether it's eye color or the dresses that they wear or if they have a disability or a handicap, something like that. So that's one way in which writers talk about their characters. Just here's what they look like now. The benefit of that is that it gives your readers a picture. It allows your readers to actually start to establish a picture so there really can be quite a load of value in giving them a certain amount of physical physical appearance. Part of the part of your your challenge here is going to be to figure out how much detail do you want to give. Some riders give a lot of detail, and if done right, it can really just make the whole scene coming live For someone, however, you have to be careful not to bog people down. Some writers choose to be very minimalist, and in fact there's some wonderful books in what you read the whole thing and you think you might have imagined to yourself that the character you're reading about was a certain ethnicity or or something. And then you get to the end and you realize they were something totally different. So think about how you want those physical traits to function for you and then utilize those in a strategic way rather than just saying, Well, there's, um, very physical features for you. You want to be. You want to be strategic. The second, The second category is personality. Personality traits are going to be catchphrases language that they use. Are they extroverted or introverted? Are the competitive what's their life? Philosophy? What did that pet peeves? Are they a good student? Are they quiet or they are working? It's all of those things you would consider someone's personality. It's a rather large bucket. Andi. You can You can drop a lot into that. If physical features is all about how they look personality. It's really about behavior. How do they behave? And you want to make sure that you have this balance of both and always remember that what comes out of your characters mouth doesn't necessarily have to jive how they behave. Way all know someone who says, Well, im I'm such a generous person or, you know, I'm I'm I'm very patient and we're thinking No, no, no, Maybe not. Or maybe not in that situation, that could be interesting. Don't feel like your personality always has to be exactly what the character thinks of himself or herself or what they say. So you want. You want to flesh out the behavior side of things because that's where the reader gets to look at your characters actions and decide for themselves who your character, ISS, which makes story far more interactive and lets them get to know your character better. If you only tell you reaches who your character is, they're not going to feel like they know them. They didn't like they got to know them because you just told them everything about them. They get to know them because they watch a character in action and they learn that personality. So you want to flesh that personality out. The third category I've made is spiritually slash moral and values, so this would cover everything from any sort of religion that they have religious be believes, spiritual believes but also their moral code, their values system. And this is incredibly important, not only because it tells you something about the reader, but again, when we think of acting in the world and making an impression on the world as a person ourselves right, I have a physical impression that I give off. Then I have my personality. I have the way that I convey things be the kind of things that I like. But then I have my belief system, and my belief system guides my actions. That's all. My personality personality is a manifestation of how I how I present what are my undercurrent believes if you see how each of these three things are are deeply important aspect of a human being, and each one can have an effect on one another, but you want to make sure that you have a certain amount of beliefs set in place that you know what your character would do in a situation. If you don't have a solid handle on your characters, believes then you are setting yourself up for your characters to behave inconsistently in your story because you're looking at an individual action individual situation, saying, Well, in this case, married Beth is going to do this, and over here she's going to react this way. And then the reader says, Why's why would she behave so differently here? I would have thought, based on this first action, that she would have done this. And they're doing that because they're trying as their reading to construct what is married bets, belief system based on her actions. So you need to know what that is so that her actions remain consistent with those beliefs and that it, in fact, they break from the belief system. There's a reason for it and that we feel like, Oh, there's something wrong with married Beth here. There's something unique with this situation that's happening. I can't feel that I can't feel the impact of an inconsistency that you purposefully put into your character unless I feel I have a behavioral consistency previously so that third category of believes systems it's incredibly important. My next category is relationships. Characters don't operate in isolation. We learn about a character by looking at how they behave with other people, how their relationships with other people have been previously and how their they behaving right now. So having a handle on Okay, does your protagonist does he get along with his brother? Is he it? Does he have a good relationship with his parents? How does he treat his wife? These things matter. These air actions that matter. But again, because we are reading a character, we are reading a story to connect with characters, the relationships and the status of those and how those are manifesting themselves for your main character and for all of your characters is deeply relevant. So you want to figure out who are the main people in my character's life currently or in the past, that have the most impact on who they are today, and you want to sort of flush that out? My next category is life on this. This is just these are all the little details that end up flushing out who that character is. Where do they live? What foods do they like? What music do they listen to things like that. These things are often seen as more surface level, people would say, as opposed to say, the deep, deep water my my values, but often times you will find we'll get into this that the values influence life traits. But these traits are the little things that really make a character pop. Bring a character to life. You can sit in a very conceptual space about a character, but you really bring me down to Earth when you say that she was eating her fifth bag of Doritos. You really bring me down to earth when you say that you know her fingers. She went down to play the piano, but the cheese from the chips that she'd been eating on the walk to her lesson got all over the keyboard. These little life details. If I watch her much ing on Doritos and then nibbling on a Twinkie and then you know Downing's and Skittles those little nuances tell me a lot. You didn't have to say she loves sweets, but you told me she did, because you dropped these in, You know, throughout the narrative. So these life things little like things matter a great deal, having a having a water heater that is very loud and constantly makes this noise so that every time she tries to study their goes her water heater again does the water heater making noises that going to change the trajectory of the plot? I mean, it might. You might choose that it does doesn't have to, but it adds this wonderful, realistic detail that just takes me there. So you want to make sure you have those realistic traits life details as part of your character and the final one is your characters past just taking some time to sit down and sort out. What is my characters past? What? What do they love about their childhood? Do they love their childhood? Do they not have the childhood? Because I don't need to tell you that obviously your past made you who you are today. So spending some time sitting down with yourself and identifying who waas my character is going to help you than answer a lot of the other traits we already talked about. You know, the past. You know why they have certain moral values if you know the past. You know why they have certain trades, Maybe how they got that scar. If you know the past, you know how they treat relationships in the past. You know how they have a personality. So past is connected with a lot of it. So there we have it. Those are my recommendations and my ideas about the traits that we're then going to really , really delve into. 4. Creating Traits With Purpose: Investigating Characteristics: I need water. It's getting horse. Okay, so now that we sort of have identified these are the types of characteristics a character might have. I want us to understand what it means to then be investigative about these characteristics because that's what really lets you flesh the story out. So what does it mean to investigate a characteristic and wise is important to do so. The point of investigating characteristics is because you want characteristics that have purpose that have relevance, that you're not just choosing random characteristics. You're choosing the ones that are best for this character and not only this character, but this story about this character, which means that when you investigate a trade, you're you're running it through a seat. You're saying, Are you worthy to make it into my story? Which means asking the what's the house and the wise of your characteristics? Why am I including this in my story? How does this character trait manifest itself in my characters like, how does this character trait influence the plot? If my character didn't have this trait, how would things be different? What is the impact of that trait on my character's life? Asking these questions makes sure that your characteristics, not your character, even obvious your character. But you're characteristics have purpose. You have to know why you're telling me what you're telling me. You don't want superfluous things floating around your narrative. Do you want a function for what you're saying? Otherwise you will end up with a character that just has a lot of random traits rather than a character who's trades all feed off one another and then push the plot forward. Your readers are smart and a reader, even if they're not actively thinking it. Subconsciously, your readers are looking at the information you are giving them and saying, How is this matter? Why is this relevant? You know, if you if you spend a lot of time telling me about how your character has certain study habits and it's certain timetable through which they go through the day, I'm going to think to myself is a reader that's important. There's a reason I'm being told this, so if somewhere along the line you don't bring that back into the story, we're going to feel like you sort of dumped information on me that didn't actually have any bearing on on the issue. Think about your own real life situations in which you would just be telling sort of it an anecdote or something to someone else. If your daughter got a bad grade, she she failed three classes on her report card. And you know how to tell this to your significant other. You're not going to go to a significant other and go, Oh, you know, Candice wore this beautiful pink dress today and she had a bow in her hair and her hair was tied up in the wind. Kind of blew it a little bit. Did you know she felt three of her courses? That's like a non sequitur. And in the person you're talking to is going to say, Why did you tell me all of this other stuff? It has no relevance to the point about Candace and her grades. You know, that's a small sort of anecdotal example, but it's a small scale example of what happens in a larger narrative. Don't spend a lot of time on characteristics that aren't going to actually serve this story . Now, don't get totally bogged down in this and feel like you can't tell me she has green eyes. Unless green eyes somehow plays into the narrative down the line. In the course, you will see how there can be a balance of the kinds of traits that you give. So don't don't just totally bald yourself down with it. But do actively ask yourself if this characteristic has a function, and if it has a purpose, being investigative about characteristics can apply even to even to surface level characteristics. Your character having green eyes might not actually really be Jermaine to the narrative itself, but it gives me information about that character. Flesh is her out visually for me, so that's your purpose in telling me, and that's a fine purpose. But even within that say, you can't possibly tell me every appearance based thing about your character, right? You can't do that. You want to be strategic about the ones that you choose, in which case, if you can only tell me so many physical characteristics, why not pick the ones that really are going to actually tell me about much more than just how your character looks? Let's look at an example you could say, Well, I could tell my readers that she has green eyes. Or I could tell my readers that she has rough hands with the green eyes. I can't help you there. That's how she came out. But the rough hands is kind of interesting because there might be a story there. She's got rough hands because this is a young girl and she lives in Southern California, and a mother has to work as a maid for a lot of people. And this young girl helps her mother sometimes and because of the chemicals that she uses when she helps her mother clean people's homes, she doesn't have the smooth, soft hands that appears. Have do you see how, on the surface, those air to physical characteristics she had green eyes? She has rough hands, but one hasn't infinitely more of a story to it. You don't necessarily have to sit there and right out, you know she had rough hands because it's going to come out in this story. But that physical attributes so deeply connected to the plot, and you find that out by asking those questions. She has rough hands. What's the implication of that? Why does she have rough hands? How does this play out. How does that make her feel it school to have rough hands? How would it make you feel at school? Maybe she is she already insecure about her mother being, you know, working for people in cleaning people's homes. Maybe she's surrounded by a lot of other people whose parents don't do that. Maybe she is conscious of the fact that she has rough hands. And is she embarrassed by that? Where does that actually drive her and motivate her to get, you know, to get good grades so that she can not clean houses for a living? You see how investigating just the trade of the rough hands causes all kinds of not only fleshing out of the character but of the plot? When we approach character development in this fashion, we realize that character development is actually more about character discovery as well. There's a development stage, but there's a discovery stage, and they're going on simultaneously so that as you're developing choosing your traits, asking investigative questions, you're actually learning to discover who that character ISS. This means that if you do it this way and you'll start with a small number of characteristics that you work from, and that a lot of the other characteristics you assigned to your character will grow out of the initial ones that she made. This is so important. I'm going to say it again if you want a character that is true, that is, that their core consistent in behavior and in attitude and with who they are, both in terms of how they act but also the experiences they've had. You will start with a core set of characteristics you've chosen, and you will let virtually all of your other characteristics grow out of those just like the hand example. Huge the we said her hands are rough. And then, in investigating that we answered questions about her past, we were able to develop questions about her presence, life situations. We were able to figure out in brainstorm questions about how she thinks of herself, what her value sets are. All of that brainstorming happened because of a surface level character trait that you had in your head and his writers. We have to be this. You'd love to say there's an ideal way in which I'm crafting a character but isn't that way . Sometimes we come up with a story, and we know what that character looks like. But we have to figure out who that character is. Sometimes we have some of the internal decisions about a character made, but we have to sort out B personality or how they look. It's a variety, so start with which is sure about ask those investigative questions. Let those questions about what you know, answer what you don't. Then everything's consistent. Let's look at another example of how if you start with a core set and let your investigation go from there, you will actually flesh that character out. That, say, we start with a protagonist likes pizza. Seems simple enough, right? But let's investigate that. Okay? My capture Light's pizza. How often does he eat it? And I might say to myself, Well, he actually eats it 3 to 4 times a week. He really liked Peter Peters, in fact, his favorite food. And then I might say, OK, well, where does he eat the pizza? Does he make himself No, no, you say to yourself, There's a little pizzeria that's about a block from his his flat block from his apartment, and he gets it he gets it there 3 to 4 times a week. Same pizzeria. How does he get to the pizzeria while he drives? He could walk. It's only a block away mine, but my protagonist drives. You might say. How much pizza does he, you might say, Eat a whole pizza? He's the whole thing Every time he's just that hungry and he eats at pizza. And then you might say to yourself, OK, well, I have these factoids here. Well, that's actually sounds like a bit unhealthy. You 3 to 4 times a week pizza, and you're not even walking and burning some calories to get their to it to driving. So what does that say about how my character might look now? You might say, Actually, he's told and lean and just has a really great metabolism, which will tell you one thing. Or you could say no. When I think about it, my character actually is a bit of a belly. He's kind of got He's got a little bit of a belly going on because, you know, he also actually drinks a two later container of soda pop every time that he has his pizza as well So do you see how investigating that we not only learned that his favorite food is pizza? We've learned something about his life habits. We've learned that he doesn't seem to be somebody who likes to exercise very much. That's clearly health and fitness is clearly not not one of his priorities, right? We've learned something about his appearance, So just choosing that one characteristic about pizza if we asked multiple questions about it, told us so much more, and it's all connected, so it's really solid. This brings us to the next point, which we've already started to delve into here. But that is that a characteristic can be internal or it can be external, and those two things actually influence each other. So let's look at that in the next video. 5. Internal and External Characteristics: when you are defining your characteristics. What you're going to find is that each characteristic is either internal or external in nature. For example, your character wears only black. That's an external characteristic or your car. Your character is very angry with her sister. That's an internal characteristic. What's important is that every external characteristic, generally speaking, has an internal one that's driving it. And every internal characteristic manifests itself in an external way. So whatever characteristics you end up choosing for yourself, you want to ask yourself, This is an internal or an external one. And how does it manifest itself, or what is the driver behind it? Let's look back at these, so your character wears only black eyed bitch on my nose. In the case of the character who only wears black, you could say to yourself, Well, he only was black. She only wears black because she doesn't want to be influenced by trends she's really into . I'm not influenced by other people. I am myself. So that tells you something about that person's personality. In the case of the girl who's angry with her sister, how does that manifest itself in a physical way? The trade is that she's got an anger in her about her sister, but it manifests itself because she never talks with her sister. She just won't talk with her. So do you see how each one is influencing the other? And you want to ask yourself that about every single trait that you're deciding on, because again that's going to influence you plot. I can't stress enough the importance of having all of your character traits interconnected and need to be woven together. So figuring out the manifestations on the internal drivers behind your characteristics is going to help make that interconnectivity happen, and through it, it will tell you will allowance a plot points for you. Looking at the internal and external drivers also helps you to determine if that characteristic is worthy of being in your narrative. It doesn't mean that every single characteristic you have, you have to solidify the internal of the external drivers behind it or it's not worthy. But if you sort of put a characteristic into your story and onto your character and you can't figure out if you know, say, put an external one, you can't figure out the internal driver, then you need to really ask yourself, Why am I including this in my narrative? Why do I feel the need to tell my Regis is if I don't have the flip side of it, why do we need to tell him she's better with her sister if I'm not going to show them that physically, and why do I need to tell them that she only wears black if I'm not going to explain the internal drivers behind that somehow in the narrative, which again all connects to plot. So let's look now at how these characteristics Dr plot itself. 6. How Characteristics Relate to Plot - Three Levels: characteristics influence a plot at different levels. There are three categories, and these are my terms, but three categories of characteristic as they relate to plot and I'm categorizing. This is primary supporting and ancillary primary characteristics. These are your most important ones. These are the ones that absolutely 100% influence the plot itself. The ones that you say. How is my story different? Because the character has this behavior. How does this character trait totally changed my characters worldview. These are the ones you have the most deep, solid answers for that you're going to bring to bear in the actual plotting of your story. Supporting characteristics are ones that are not essential to the plot, but they tell us something about the character. We see these. We see these characteristics come out in their actions. So whereas with a primary characteristic, if the characteristic is that my character is really investigative, on likes to ask questions and it's a mystery, And her asking this questions ends up getting her in trouble because she asks a few things that maybe she learned some things that some people didn't want her to know. That's a primary characteristic. She hadn't been that she now wouldn't be in this whole plot. It's the whole driver with story where Mafia realizes she knows things that she shouldn't know. And now they're coming up to her. That's primary characteristic. A supporting characteristic is going to be one in which we say to herself, she likes pizza. We see her eat pizza throughout it. It fleshes her out. It gives It gives a flavor to the narrative because she gets in an altercation in the pizza parlor or things like that. So it sort of plays into the plot. But it doesn't drive the plot. Um, but it does tell us something about her because it tells us that she's not terribly healthy and she likes to eat pizza. And and so we're learning something about her, were able to pair that not healthy attitude with the girl whose investigative, but it's not the same driving force, and ancillary details are sort of the ones that you're putting in to flush the character out for us. But they don't really have much bearing on the plot, things like she had green eyes. Now you could make green eyes matter somehow, but it doesn't have to. It's an ancillary detail, and when you're developing your character, you want to have some of each of these. You want primary characteristics, secondary characteristics and ancillary ones because it gives a nice, healthy balance to your personality and to your narrative. Now that we've defined those three types of plot driven characteristics, let's look at how specifically characteristics relate to plot and how we can plot or narrative through developing those. 7. Creating Plot-Driven Characteristis: plot and character rely on one another. You've probably heard it before your character. Your plot should be character driven your characters, the reason I'm coming there and connecting with your story. So what that character does, that's that everything to do with the thought. But when the rubber hits the road and we have to sit there and start to actually design our characters, how do we choose the characteristics that will best serve the plot? And this needs to be the question that you ask. It isn't a matter of what characteristics do I think my readers would find interesting. What matters is what is Jemaine and interesting for this character in this situation, this is so important. So if you say just awful, I'm going to make my car, to go to school, to be a ballerina. A lot of your audience might not care about being a ballerina, but if her studies of being a ballerina relate to the plot now, they might care. So you have to relate Situational e What's going on? Let's think back a moment to what we said a couple videos ago about how character traits feed off of one another because of that, If you want your narrative to be really strong, plot wise, you need to make sure that the first traits that you choose out of which all the other traits grow are your most important traits. So as you sit down and you start to think about who your character is and what is the story that I'm trying to tell with my character? What's the story? I'm trying to tell you're going to have a lot of ideas. You need to then sit with them and say, What are the most important ones? What are the traits that most deeply drive this story? You want to figure out what on my primary traits, that primary ones being the one that most deeply influenced the plot. Start with those and let your other characteristics grow out of them. If you do that all your other characteristics because they're growing out of seeds that are rooted and plot, they will naturally have plot in them. If this is my plot seed, my characteristic see, that's got plot in it, and all these little characteristics grow out of it like a happy that plant. All of these little leaves cannot help genetically have some plot in them, whereas if you choose one of your foundational characteristics out of which others grow is being an ancillary one. She's got green eyes. That plant can't grow very much because it's not plot driven. So figure out what are my most important primary plot driven traits. And then then brain storm the rest of your character traits. Let's look at another example. Let's say I have a main character who's Jewish and that that trade is one of my primary traits because my narrative is all about how he's fallen in love with a girl of a different religion, and his Jewish parents are not happy about it. Now, in the case of this story is being Jewish matters a great deal? If my story were about his being a medical student and trying to get a scholarship and work toward being a surgeon, maybe his being Jewish would matter in that story. Or maybe it would matter a little and being a supporting characteristic, but it might not necessarily be the driving characteristic, but in the one case, the first case, ISS, in the case of falling in love with someone who isn't the religion of your family. And if your family cares about that, that trait undergirds the whole plot. So that's going to be one on which you start touching everything else out. And when you start with that, you'd say, Well, how What is his relationship with his parents? Does it matter to him that his parents like him? How, how, how deeply is he connected with his own religion? Does it bother him that they're not the same religion? Is he hoping that she'll be his religion? If is he willing to compromise his his religious beliefs? To be with someone that he loves, which tells me something about his values and his morals values? And when you start to answer those things, then you're going to know what kinds of decision he makes. When you actually put him in situations in the plot, you know these foundational beliefs he has. Then when you actually start making making the world happen and making him interact in that world, you know what he's going to do. You know what he's going to do because you've established all of these things. Based on the primary characteristic of his being Jewish. So how do you decide if a character trait is really primary and functional and worthy? In the most deep plot based sense? There is a test that you can do if you can, more or less lift your character out of the plot, the tube in writing and put a new one in without really changing the plot. You have not created a plot driven character. Obviously, certain things would change if you put in one character pulled out another. But if you say to yourself, Well, I'm telling a story about a girl who's competing in the Olympics, and she's the first member of her family to compete in this fashion. And it's a big deal when you say to yourself, You know what? Instead of that, um, that 20 year old girl from the Upper Midwest, I think I'm just going to make it this, um, immigrant, this patient American immigrant who got to the United States just a couple years ago, and it just I just think I like that better, So I'm just going to make that change. It's actually not going to effect the plot all that much. That's a problem, because that's what it means to not have a memorable character. What you've done is you've made a story in which certain plot events happen, but they're actually the characters and driving that plot because you've just told me that you could lift her right out, put a new person in and plot itself isn't gonna change very much if your character you can make those changes in your plot doesn't have to totally be reworked. Your character's not plot driven and your character won't be memorable, and your audience won't walk away feeling like they conducted with story or the character. Let's pause a moment and look at the first half of your assignment and see how you can start to do some brainstorming on this. 8. Character Profile Project: Part One: Ideally, you've already printed this and you've been following along and had it in front of you. But if you don't, I recommend printing your handy dandy, um, character profile document, which I have made for you for this course. Now, as faras, the assignment goes, it's broken into three parts. In reality, you kind of writing these things simultaneously. There's not always this. I developed my character in this specific way all of the time, But for the purposes of the course, I haven't broken down into three steps for you. So first, what I'd like to do is just show you the three parts of the assignment. The first two pages are the instructions. Then you'll notice. On the third page, there is a character profile table that I've made for you. It's an award documents that you can go in and fill that out as you need. I have given some sample answers in some yellow boxes. If everything that's yellow box, delete my sample answers and you put in yours, that's just for you to sort of see what I'm thinking and how to proceed and then the next set our brainstorming questions for you so Let's go through each of those just briefly and talk about them. The first step in your assignment is going to be going in and just starting to brainstorm your initial traits for your character, and you will fill these out in the first column on your table. Your table has three columns, characteristics, vivid details and internal external associations and character relations. So right now, for the first part of the assignment were just looking at these characteristics, and this is where you'll just start to come up with the ideas you're thinking about your character, their hair call it their personality, etcetera. Within that, they're broken down into the personality traits we've talked about appearance, personality, spiritual values, relationships, life past. So they're all sectioned off. So what I'd like for you to do is go ahead and go in and for each one of those sections, make a make and make a few choices about your character and start to feel those traits in. You'll find that some sections you'll have more to say than others. That's just fine, but I do ask that you it's best for you if you have have some for each and to help get your creative juices going. You can then turn to my stored her list of brainstorming questions, which I've also sectioned off by category of trait. So this is by no means an extensive list, but it is a great starting point for you to just get ideas. You don't have to want any of these. You can answer all of them. You come up with your own, but these are just some good questions to get you going, so you'll sort of answer those, and you can answer them fairly briefly, so you'll see that for me in this characteristics under appearance. I just have her hair Color is blue and she was glasses, really, really brief. The next two columns we will get into in more detail. Now let's move on to looking about how you choose the best characteristics, not just to drive the plot to further help your reader get to know all the characters you narrative. How do you make solid character with 9. Crafting Strong Character Relationships: In addition to making characters whose characteristics helped drive the plot, it's important to make sure that your characterised your characters actually play off one another. Now this is a course old of its own, and it's one that I'm producing, but I want to give an overview of it here. Your protagonist does not live in isolation. She lives surrounded by other characters who have their own personalities. Whether own traits in which you want to do is leverage that and leverage the interactions she has with people who are similar or different. To help tell the reader something Maura about her, to bring her to lie and to emphasize the traits and the the messages that are important to you when you create characters whose personalities strategically interact with one another . You're not only helping tell me something about both of those characters, but you're also helping tell me something about what you think or what the message is that you're trying to impart about those characters actually is. Let's look at an example, say your main character has a very distant not close it all relationship with her father, and that this in your plot is a significant characteristic. It's important piece of who she is, and it's very germane to the plot itself. Say she has a best friend who in fact, is very close with her father, and they have a fabulous relationship. Obviously, your main characters relationship with her father matters a lot. But by giving her a best friend and making one of the best friends traits her relationship with her father and how that's different, you're able to tell the reader. Look, here are these different kinds of relationships one can have with one's father. This places an emphasis not just on the characters but on on an issue on an idea and that makes the readers engage more. If you only know that this dress is this color red, this is the only color red that you've ever seen. Then all you can do say, that's a red dress. But if I showed you three other dresses that all had different shades of red, then you'd suddenly know what it is to be read better, you know, read better, and so you would be You would have a more nuanced understanding off my dress, so the same is true of your your character. If you want us to understand about her and the meaning behind this distant relationship with her father by giving a character who has a different kind of relationship, you are helping me x just flesh out the idea of what a relationship with one's parents should be. Furthermore, you're giving your reading more ways to relate to the narrative. Not everyone is going to have a distant relationship with their father. Some people will have a close relationship with their father by having more than one kind of parental doors relationship. You're allowing more people to associate to relate to it, to to compare and contrast their own experiences with the experiences of the characters in your story. The third thing it does is set up additional plot points and characteristics from both character does the fact that her friend has a great relationship with her father cause envying your main character? Does it inspire her to try to reconcile with her father? How does having a best friend who's got a great relationship with her father when you bought a terrible one influence what you do, who you are? You're setting up juxtapositions that help your audience, understand something more, and then see how that influences the plot. It is in that way a wonderful way to tell your readers more about your character. More about your protagonist, without actually talking about your protagonist all of the time, which is so important. What we learn about a character isn't just what we say. It's also what we don't say. If my character comes home from school and walks past a father into her bedroom and doesn't say, Hi, Dad, I may or may not think about that. As a reader. I may or may not go home. She didn't say Hi, Dad when she saw when she came in the room. But if we have a scene in which she comes over to a best friend's house and they're walking past the living room and her best friend says, Hi, Dad, and then they go back to her friend's bedroom. Now you feel the void now because I had a similar somehow similar situation in which my protagonist didn't say hello to her father and because I had one where I saw a girl do so. The thing that didn't happen over here suddenly matters suddenly instead of there being nothing there. It's like on nothing happened. If that makes sense, it's like the void happened, and I feel it. So giving those actions helps me know something about this protagonist without you are actually saying it. He never had to say She walked in the room and didn't say hello to her father. He didn't have to say that because her friend did say hello to her father. So I've just learned a lot about my protagonist from that what's really going to help you is if you make character profiles for not just your protagonist but all your main characters. Certainly your protagonist under antagonised, you're supporting characters as well. I wouldn't expect that they would be as involved as your protagonists profile making those you're going to figure out. Oh, here's here's where they can connect. Here's where they can relate, and in fact, you'll see again on that assignment sheet that the third column in your table has a space where you can put another character's name as sort of a way to say there's a juxtaposition that's happening here. So this character trait for my protagonist relate somehow to this other character. Since you can start getting that webbing going, let's look at the final section on this. Which is how do we really find the really unique special nuggets special traits that totally stand out? It's sort of like the cherry on the character Sunday that makes it truly special and unique . 10. Creating Unique and Memorable Traits: I have several recommendations here on how to truly truly make your characters very, very unique. The first is to avoid low lying fruit. This goes not just for character development, but for plot development or for any kind of creative endeavor that you have. As you start to brainstorm. And this is so important. Don't go with your first ideas. They might be the ones that you choose, but very often. Most of the time your first ideas are someone else's first ideas. And so if you just go with those, you're going to end up with something generic that loads of other people have already thought of. For example, if you if I said to everybody, brainstorm different ways that a boy and a girl couldn't meet in a coffee shop and I've tested this, you have everybody brainstorm that for a while the first number of ways that a boy and a girl who are going to meet everyone will have the same ones. It is until they've sat that question for longer, and they've exhausted themselves till it's almost painful. How they're trying to trying to wreck the brains, to figure out a new way that they met, though, is toward the end of the unique ones. First set aren't so When you're starting to develop your character, don't get too married to your first ideas. Just just brainstorm and don't settle on something right away. Don't say well, she's got red hair in that saddle or she doesn't like a father. And that's fact. Entertain different ideas, flesh it out, get detailed and say, Well, you know, OK is their favorite food pizza or is their favorite food? I don't know this this really rare, unique food or something like that, Or is it that she loves a rice? But she will only eat one piece of rice at a time or something, really sit with it and and push to find to find the unique and to find this specific, don't rest in just broad generalizations. Your character will never be memorable if you live in broad generalization land. The second tip that I have on this is to really think again in specifics, but in specifics of of environment. If you're running a historical character, what's going to help? You know that character is to really go and investigate the time period that your character lives in or the city that your character lives in those specific situations Again, this goes back to don't create a character that you can drop into a 1,000,000 situations you want to say, OK, my character lives in the 19 fifties. Let me go investigate the 19 fifties New York City, and I might learn something about the types of hats that men wear, or the the ways that they commute, or the way that the newspaper was laid out in the 19 fifties, which is very different than how newspapers are laid out. Now they look different, or the fact that you only used to get a newspaper a couple times a day and you didn't have 24 hour news cycle. So that changes things, and that could influence how you're character even thinks about news in general. Thes details of environment. Ah, historical time, period, etcetera are going to deeply impact the uniqueness that you can bring to your character. You must do justice by the environment itself in which your character lives 11. Project Part Two and Final Thoughts: So let's bring this all together with a few closing ideas. You don't want to get overwhelmed. You don't want to feel like you're never going to get into actually writing your narrative because there's so much character development to do. You could develop a character till you're blue in the face. Wouldn't serve you terribly well because you do actually have to get around to writing the plot. What this course hopefully does is give you a variety of ways that you can think about different characteristics you can take. For example, let's go back to the gentleman who eats pizza. You can look at that and say, What is the internal manifestation of someone who eats pizza like this? You can say what other characters eating If he's got a friend who eats really healthy, that's going to shine a light on the fact that this character in peace it isn't healthy. Looking for my characteristic perspective, you can look at it from a plot driven perspective. There are all these different ways for you. Look at any just just one characteristic so many possibilities don't get bogged down with it. But let let it be encouraging to you to find that interconnectivity. And when you can sit down with a plot with that with a character profile and you can start to go through and see how every characteristic relates to every other characteristic relates to all these other characters, you will start to see this massively connected, very sophisticated web off people you have made. And it's going to make writing your plot so much easier because you've got such a deep undercurrent of what's going on and who they are and what they would do. That the plot itself is just reinforcing that and is is able to be a more influential character based plot than it ever could have been. To that end, let's look back over at the rest of this assignment that you can do so I've already showed you this first column and how you been start to Mr Characteristics out. The next two columns are what I want to look at now in the vivid details. This is encouraging you to go that extra investigative mile. So that's the back hair Color. Blue is in my example. I've said her hair color is blue. Well, as your writing that you might have investigative details about that. Maybe she's changed her hair color so many times that yes, or hair colors blue right now, But it's also totally fried. It's really dry. It's really kind of Chris, but not world cared for. And that tells you something about her and that she's just sort of unsettled. And maybe she just keeps changing her hair color because she it's It's her own weird way of trying to change her identity and be new. Somehow she feels very broken inside about something very different. Maybe another thing is that she's always then therefore looking with next color that her hair should be so that randomly, while she's doing other things, it pops into her head. And she might, well, maybe pink. Or maybe I'll do a rainbow thing. And it's just one of her ISMs that she's always going through life, thinking about what the next color for my hair. So you want to flesh out for each of your main characteristics that you listed here some vivid details. You probably will not use all of these in your narrative, but it's a way to get started. It's a way to to start to figure out who this character ISS again, you're going to know far more about this person than anyone else ever will. And then the third column is just a way to say there's a characteristic. Does another character in this novel in this story who is related to this characteristic, whether it's someone who's got beautiful hair or whether it's someone who isn't at all focused on appearance, or whether it's someone who also is really focused on different hair colors and and your main character is doesn't ever want to have the same hair color is that person or something ? Is a character another one who relates to it. There's a call in there for you to fill that out as well. Hopefully going through and feeling these things out will help give you a solid idea off who your character is and how they can connect to other characters and the plot. Once you've completed your character profile, be sure to post it in the class project on skill share so that I can see it and met your peers in the course can see it. This is such an exciting thing to do, and I'm really looking forward to seeing what you come up with. When you do that again, just don't feel you have to fill all of it out. You can fill out pieces of it. You can answer some things and not answer. Others do Fill it out. Do post it. I hope this video is helpful If it waas and you haven't subscribed this skill show to my skill share channel, you might want to do that because I'm gonna be making a lot more courses about character and story plot and I'd hate for you to miss them. If you have questions, please leave those below in the course comments. Tell me what you loved about this course. Tell me if there are things that you still have questions about because I cannot to those in a subsequent class. It would also be so fantastic that if you enjoy this course, you would go ahead and review it on skill share. Leave comments and share it with people. If you enjoyed this course, one of the best things you can do is share this course with other people and let them know about it. It helps me make more content for you and it helps spread the knowledge. And that would be wonderful. I would appreciate it very much. There are places to find me online. I have a YouTube channel, which is youtube dot com slash bore prevents where I talk about things such as art as well a story. So I hope you will look and follow me there as well. I'm also on Twitter. I want instagram. I really encourage you to actually put pen to paper or put your fingertips to your keyboards and start to fill his character profiles out. It will massively change things to actually articulate in words how you feel about your character. Thank you so much for watching. I hope you're having a fantastic day and I wish you best of luck with the project you're working on by